I saw the movie misnamed "Bobby"
On Thanksgiving night, I saw, with my Dad, the movie "Bobby."
First, it should have been called "The Ambassador" because it was more about the Ambassador Hotel than Bobby Kennedy. It is better than California Suite, but it was not quite as good as The Grand Hotel. Still, it was a wonderful homage to the Ambassador Hotel, with powerful and effective performances by the various actors in the film.
Second, the clips of Robert Kennedy were powerful to people such as my Dad and me, but, in both my Dad's view and mine, the clips failed to sufficently reveal to a younger audience why RFK is relevant today. RFK's speech concerning Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination (and violence in America) and his final speech were there, but there was little connection, in my view, to the way most people live today.
Third, I was extremely unhappy to see Estevez change the identities of who was shot along wtih RFK that tragic midnight hour of June 5, 1968. SPOILER ALERT (Don't read if you're planning to see the film):
Why have fictional characters shot at with Sirhan's gun (such as the hotel's supervisor over the bus boys and a couple of young campaign workers, among others)? My view (shared by my Dad) is that Estevez was admitting he really could not connect the story of RFK to the stories of the people in the hotel--who, apart from the two young campaign workers, would not even be talking about RFK at all if Kennedy's victory speech was at the Biltmore, not the Ambassador. To not show the actual people who were shot, such as Paul Schrade, the United Auto Workers representative on the campaign who was shot in the head and miraculously survived, is insulting to those persons. Also, Estevez is so interested in having Sirhan be the only shooter that he fails to show (at least in any way I noticed) the private security guard on duty at the Ambassador, Thane Cesear, who was right behind RFK at the time and could have, by accident, shot RFK in the back of the head.
There is a whole bunch of information about Cesear, who was exonerated by Dan Moldea (see a discussion of Moldea's RFK book here), but leaves both my Dad and I with doubts as to whether Cesear could still have pulled his 22 caliber (he owned one at the time, but says he had his 42 caliber gun that night) and, trying to hit Sirhan, hit RFK instead. Cesear says he froze and did not take out his gun, and passed a lie dectector test with an FBI agent who Dan Moldea specially hired for the occasion. Who really knows, though? Plus, there is the issue of Cesear being a young white guy who hated RFK and was supporting the racist candidacy of George Wallace at the time. Again, who knows? As my Dad reminded me, and I should have spoken of in this last post, one gets to a second gun man with Cesear and there is no need for a conspiracy theory at all--just a tragic accident. There are some, however, who would include Cesear in the conspiracy, particularly Cesear's move to the Philippines and lack of full candor to police (he says he had sold his 22 before June 4, 1968, but that turned out to be false, for example). Such conduct continues to stir the conspiracy theory folks.
Again, as I said in this post, there is a reasonable possibility of a conspiracy to kill RFK, just not enough evidence for me to say there is a probability--at least at this point.
To get back to the point, though: Estevez could have easily had someone playing the security guard, Thane Cesear, present, made a choice to have Cesear not pull his gun to shoot (or have him shoot, for that matter) and at least had stayed to history. He was not writing an "alternative history" and changing the moment as someone else has already done in book form at least. The sad thing is that young folks who don't know about the assassination (and many older folks who didn't know or don't remember) will walk out of the theater not knowing there were real, not fictional people shot besides RFK that night and who those people were.
The film is worth seeing for the performances and the Bobby clips, but one should approach the film as being about the Ambassador Hotel on the night RFK is assassinated. To boil down my criticism of the film, it is really that Estevez made a very poor and ultimately misleading choice of a title, "Bobby," because the film does not live up to that name in terms of telling us about RFK's legacy. The film does, however, live up to being an insightful film about the lives of people at the Ambassador Hotel during the 1960s.
Final comment: For an interesting story about a woman who was the pubilc relations manager for the Ambassador during the 1960s and 1970s, see here. I met Margaret Burk, the woman in question, when my book was published. She was very supportive and had me speak before her "Round Table" groups of society folks about RFK and his legacy. Her book on the Ambassador Hotel is here.
(Edited; also got links working again! Hooray!)